With no classes allowed at the end of the 2019-2020 school year many schools simply provided assignments online. Not at Robert Land Academy (RLA) where, whether at home or on campus in student residences, students had to report for online classes in uniform and ready to learn. RLA used Google Classroom and Google Meet to create real-time classes so students could remain engaged with their teachers and their classmates, and therefore their education.  

Real-time classes so students could remain engaged with their teachers.

“It was important to us that our students finish the academic year with meaning and accountability – this commanded the use of technology to meet the standards of both the objectives of the curriculum and the expectations of our disciplined environment,” asserted Academic Officer Bill Simmons. RLA students continued to participate in classes every day and were able to engage with teachers and interact in class discussion. In addition, students were provided daily homework and assignments that were assessed and evaluated with the intent to maintain the continuity of the learning process.  

With 100% of the graduating class already accepted in their post-secondary program of choice, Simmons emphasized he did not want cadets graduating without the requisite skills and knowledge necessary for success in their post-secondary endeavours. Online classes offered graduating students the opportunity to practice the learning skills and work habits that will make them successful as life-long learners

 The private boarding school, located on 168 acres in rural Niagara, provides a structured learning environment for boys in grades 5 through 12 that focuses on academics, physical health and personal growth that benefits students struggling in the public school system.

Academically, RLA offers students the chance to catch up if they have fallen behind in their grades with numeracy and literacy courses. Most students, explained Dr. David Harley, the school’s acting Headmaster, see a significant improvement in their grades within the first semester.

It is that academic focus, with programs already in place to help students catch up, that parents should consider for the 2020 school year, says Harley, adding parents should ask themselves how their son’s current school supported his education throughout the closures.

“If your son has fallen behind due to the school closures and you’re worried he is being pushed through to the next grade unprepared for the new school year, our program offers extensive remediation and individualized support,” said Harley, noting those programs allow students who missed almost four months of school to not only catch up but improve their grades as well.

In more ways than one, the Academy is ready for September.

During the school closures RLA implemented real-time classes for all students and extended the disciplined program to students at home to continue student accountability for their work.  The Academy also provided additional supports for students and parents through the Academy’s professional therapist to help them though the stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic and related school closures. Those changes will remain available if they are needed for the new school year.

The school is also physically ready for September, with renovations to buildings completed to allow for greater distancing in living and sleeping quarters as well as ensuring there are two separate buildings on campus to house students who are sick, or suspected to have been in contact with the virus.

“We have significantly increased our cleaning schedules and have made hand sanitizing and the disinfecting of surfaces part of the daily work schedule as well,” pointed out Harley, adding meal times have been scheduled into two periods to avoid having all students in the mess hall at the same time, class sizes will be reduced, and drop-offs will be staggered so students and families can socially distance.

All of the measures put into place have been successful, points out Harley, noting that boys have been on campus, in the residences not in classrooms, throughout the pandemic and RLA has not had a single case of coronavirus amongst students or staff.

The Academy has an RN and an RPN on staff who were both in contact with Niagara’s Public Health Department almost daily, providing their professional opinion and helping to guide the Academy’s response to the pandemic.

“We’re confident in our ability to keep our students safe,” stated Harley, noting the rural location and the limited number of people interacting with the boys on a regular basis, all wearing masks, reduces, but cannot eliminate, exposure to the virus.

Every school and every school board will be facing issues around risk management in September, said Harley, pointing out that staff at RLA have successfully mitigated the risk, and will continue to  keep boys isolated from exposure to the virus.  This not only keeps your son safe, but by virtue of him boarding at the Academy, it also prevents any inadvertent risk of exposure to family members that might otherwise result.  

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